Teaching High School Economics

A half-year course in economics is required by the state of Florida to graduate from public school. While we homeschoolers don’t have to copy their graduation requirements, it seems like as good a plan as any; so this year, economics was on my teens’ course schedule. But I never took economics in high school, and the courses in micro-economics that I took at the University of Chicago (which is renowned for its economics department with lots of Noble Prize winners) didn’t seem that terribly relevant to the average person. So what should a high school student learn in an economics course? Instead of just picking a textbook and focusing on it, as many schools seem to, I decided to focus first on what I thought an educated adult ought to know about economics.

We began the year with practical lessons about scams and how to avoid them, how to be a wise consumer, the pitfalls of credit cards, and such. We did learn a bit of micro-economics, but they also learned very hands-on practical lessons as they each developed a product to sell (such as comic books or hand-knit/crocheted goods), came up with a company name, motto, and label, and learned how to sell their wares, how to set prices, how to attract customers (and how to avoid falling for sales tactics of others). They learned to keep records of their costs and sales and one attended an all-day 4-H Teen Entrepreneur Workshop.

They learned about different economic systems and the role the government plays in trying to keep the economy stabilized, about the various leading economic indicators, but we also spent quite a bit of time exploring different aspects of the working world such as figuring out aspects to consider in choosing a job or career, how to go about looking for work, how to be successful in a career, and such. We discussed some of the things I knew from having been a supervisor who helped interview and select employees, such as the importance of dressing appropriately (and how the guy who came to an interview in beach wear probably never realized why he couldn’t land a professional job), being on time, etc. We still plan to work through some websites that help choose the types of careers that would likely best suit each of them and help them start planning for their own financial future.

If we hadn’t done so last school year, we would have worked through the book “The Richest Man in Babylon” and its ideas on becoming wealthy, giving to charity, and saving for the future, but I see no need to repeat something previously covered unless necessary to fully learn it. I do plan to work further with them on filling out tax forms, how warranties work, and more. They’ve opened bank accounts and handled transactions with the tellers on their own and other practical personal financial matters.

Doing all of this, covering such a diverse range of topics in economics, meant that we used a number of different sources of information, picking the chapters or sections that taught what we wanted from textbooks rather than going through entire textbooks, using websites or non-textbooks or activities when appropriate. Mostly, I want to be sure they’ll know enough to be able to handle their own finances and support themselves and their future families some day.

Cheryl

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